"His name is Dimitri Rostropovitch, he's a twenty year old concert violinist from Smolensk, and he defected yesterday, making a dash for St. Paul's Cathedral and asking for asylum -- an old tradition he had heard of. Not knowing what to make of it, the staff at the Cathedral called the Police, and they called us." Cowley looked over the top of his glasses as Doyle and Bodie, who lounged on the other side of his desk. 'We've got him in our care now."

It was Doyle who put his finger on the key question. "Why do we take any interest in a defecting musician? It's not political, or criminal, just diplomatic, surely."

Cowley shook his head. "So I thought, until I ran background data on the lad, and then the pieces went together. His father is Yuri Rostropovitch; the name won't be familiar to you two, but I knew of him as long ago as 1965. He's a rocketry engineer. Today he works on the Soviet missile programme. And his son, Dimitri, was almost as brilliant in that field as in music. He worked with his father for the first fifteen years of his life, in their home outside Smolensk --"

"And you're wondering how much Soviet missile technology is locked up inside his head, " Bodie concluded. "Nice.

"Further to that," Cowley added, "the Soviets will be wondering the same thing. They'll be after him, you can bet your pension. The boy is terrified. We've put him in Safehouse 9; Murphy and Susan are with him at this time, but you'll be taking turns with them, and with Jax and Anson, spelling each other off, around the clock."

A groan escaped Doyle's lips. "Like the further adventures of the late Colin Meredith? A shooting party, with us as the targets of honour. Just the thing to make your whole day complete."

"There'll be no shooting if we can help it," Cowley said mildly. "The boy is eager to please, speaks English very well, and has been in custody for only twenty hours. It will take the Russians a long time to find him, even if they are disposed to shout at him... Safehouse 9, then. Murphy and Susan are waiting for you now."

The door had closed behind them when Bodie spoke. "You know, it makes you wonder, in this day and age, why anyone'd bother to defect. I mean, you look at Russia an the TV, and you look at England, and it looks an the surface of things as if we're in a worse state than they are. What would you gain by putting your neck on the chopping block?"

"The freedom to open your mouth and make a berk of yourself in public without fear of reprisal," Doyle shrugged. "I could stand in the middle of Paddington Station and shout, 'Mrs. Thatcher is a megalomaniac', and about the only thing that'd happen is a riot would start between the people who agreed and the people who didn't."

Bodie gave him a curious look. "You reckon she's a megalomaniac?"

"I didn't say that!" Doyle grinned. "I meant, in England you can stand up and insult the system and you won't do twenty-five years in a hole in the Lubyanka! That's about the only thing you'd defect for, that I can think of. Unless you're a capitalist at heart, and demand the right to grind your fellow man underfoot to make yourself rich."

"Climb down off your soapbox, Ray," Bodie chuckled.

"I'm not on it," Doyle said affably. "You should see me when I am!"

"I have seen you," Bodie told him. "Putting the world to rights on a Sunday afternoon... They've got you outnumbered, you know. Best you can ever hope for's to change one little corner of the world. Do the best you can to make your bit of it better. Who's driving?"

Bodie drove; they arrived at Safehouse 9 at two in the afternoon, meeting Murphy at the door. He was heading inside with parcels of fish and chips and bottles of beer, and he gave them a smile of greeting. "Are you hungry? You can eat this rubbish if you like, and I'll take Susan to the Italian restaurant down the road."

"I already ate," Doyle said, but Bodie accepted the food, peeling the papers back and juggling with roasting-hot chips as they went on into the house. There were three packs of cod and fritters, and if Ray could not be persuaded to wrap himself around the third, Bodie could manage it for him. Presumably, the young Russian would be ready to eat one helping of the Britain's favourite takeaway food.

As the front door clicked shut Doyle checked in surprise; music wafted down from upstairs, a powerful tone with a fast vibrato. Bach. it was the first movement of the E Major concerto, he knew it well. He took the stairs two at a time, meeting Susan on the landing. "Hello, love. The Smurph's on his way out to the car -- he's going to treat you to Italian, you lucky thing. Bodie's getting stuck into the fish and chips."

She pushed sunglasses onto her nose. 'Well, tell him to leave some for the kid, he's ravenous."

"Oh, yeah? What's he like?"

"Nice. Shy, quiet. Brilliant -- see for yourself. He's in the back bedroom, where the acoustics suit his instrument, apparently."

"So I hear," Ray smiled. "I'll see you later, then."

"Oh no you won't -- Jax and Anson spell you next, in the morning.

Ray shrugged. "Okay, so I'll see you around."

"Toodle-oo," Susan sang, and swung down the stairs past Bodie, who was sucking at burned fingers.

Doyle trod like a cat toward the back bedroom, and stood at the door, watching the artist perform. Dimitri Rost:ropovitch was slim and tall, perhaps five-ten, Ray's own height; his most distinctive feature was a thatch of long, blond hair that was so yellow Ray had to blink. His eyes were closed in concentration as he bowed his way through the first movement of Bach's most loved violin concerto, and to Ray's ear, he did not make a single error either of intonation or tone.

He finished with a showman-like flourish, and Doyle applauded with a few claps that rang around in the room. He was right -- the acoustics were pretty good in there. The boy's eyes opened, startlingly blue, and the first thing he saw was the Englishman's smile as Doyle said, "Bravo, and encore! I never heard it played better!"

The young Russian blinked at him. For some time Ray was sure he was beaten for English words to express whatever it was he wanted to say, but when he spoke at last he realised that his command of the language was excellent. "You know it?" he said. "I am surprised -- so few people know music that is not the Beatles and Boy George these days."

"You have Boy George in Russia?" Ray blinked. "That surprises me!"

"We have news of the Western world," Dimitri said, "but usually such stories are used to discredit your people, you understand."

"Oh, we understand," Bodie said, arriving in the doorway behind Doyle. "My name's Bodie, this is Ray Doyle, my partner. He's the one with the brains, so it's a good thing I was born with the beauty. I've got a parcel of fish and chips for you here. You want 'em?"

"Please." Dimitri set the russet body of his Guanari violin aside and reached out for the hot parcel. "I am starved -- they have not fed me since break of dawn.

"Crack of dawn," Ray corrected with a smile, "or break of day."

"Of course, I am silly, I remember now," Dimitri smiled.

The kid was shy, Ray saw -- not unusual in performing artists. He was a nice kid, too; Susan had been right in her assessment. Quiet, and brilliant, perhaps self-conscious because of his enormous talent, and his looks, which were noticeable, even to another man. Ray returned his smile and watched Dimitri blush. "Look, come and get something to eat. I'll put the kettle on -- how do you like your tea? Milk, lemon, sugar?"

"Milk and two sugars," Dimitri said, already eating out of the papers.

"I thought you Russians liked it with lemon," Bodie said.

'Well, I like-- it that way too," Dimitri said through a mouthful of chips, "but I like milk when I can get it. Sometimes there are shortages in my country. You take what you can get."

Doyle and Bodie shared a shrewd look; they had both heard stories of Russia, and there was that curiosity to know the truth. Dimitri could be a mine of information.

In the kitchen, Bodie rummaged for cups, leaving Doyle to make the tea, and they started the boy talking about Smolensk, fishing for tidbits about the Soviet Union. He spoke at length about the climate, the arts, his family, but strictly avoided the subject of politics until Ray said quietly, "You sound very fond of Russia, Dimitri."

"I am. I shall always be a Russian."

"Then why come to England?"

Then there was silence. The boy was uncomfortable, but knew he had to answer the question. Bodie watched him closely, watched the way he seemed to relax when he spoke to Ray, the way he aimed all his answers at Doyle, no matter who had asked the questions. Perhaps Doyle reminded him of a family member or a trusted teacher, or perhaps it was just that Ray's slightly Slavic looks made him feel at home. The same thing had fascinated Bodie for years; they were Irish looks, of course -- Ray's family had been in England for no more than three generations, and they came from an area where the Danes had been trading for a thousand years, which explained it.

"I was always afraid, at home," Dimitri said slowly. "Walls are listening to you. Radios, you know? They were watching me, all the time, because of my father."

"Who was a missile engineer," Ray murmured.

Dimitri nodded, looking up and meeting the green eyes. He coloured as he looked into them; Bodie saw his blush, and frowned. Surely he was not afraid of Ray -- not when he opened up with him this way, relaxed and answered to him every time. "Yes, My father was an engineer."

"Was?" Bodie murmured. Dimitri nodded, but did not look at him.

"He died six months ago. There is nothing for me now, in Russia, but fear. They watch me constantly, and I am followed overseas."

"Because they wonder how much of your father's work is locked up in your head?" Ray wondered.

"Da. I was wondering how long it would be before KGB decided I am a security risk, and they would never let me travel overseas again.. . I love Russia, the country, the people, but the government... Everywhere there is fear of being questioned, sent away." He stirred. "Can you understand what I an saying? I don't know if I have the right words."

"Your English is great," Doyle smiled. "And yes, I know exactly what you mean. Bodie has served in the Armed Forces in some places in the world where he'd have seen it at first hand, so he'll know even better than me."

The boy looked up at Bodie then, and Bodie nodded. "Relax, son. You're safe here. It'll take them a year to find this house. You look tired out. Why don't you go and rest row you've finished off the food?"

He got up at once, as if he thought he must follow orders. "Yes, I would like that. You will be here?" He was looking at Ray as he said it.

"Course we will, " Doyle affirmed. "Till in the morning. Then there'll be two others, Jax and Anson. Worst thing about them is Anson's cigar smoke!"

"But you will come back?" Dimitri. asked quickly, and there was a catch in his voice.

'We're an the roster," Bodie said smoothly. "After Jax and Anson, Susan and Murphy will be back, then us... Something wrong, son?"

Dimitri dropped his eyes, colouring. "No, nothing." He got to his feet. "I must go and rest now."

They watched him leave the kitchen, heard his footfalls as he climbed the stairs, and Ray filled the kettle, lighting the gas. "What d'you make of him, Bodie?"

"Scared, nervous, desperate," Bodie shrugged.

"Yeah. Tea or coffee?"

"Coffee, thanks. Wonder if there's anything sweet in the fridge?"

"Eaten too much fish and chips?" Ray grinned. "Bad for the digestion, you know..." He broke off as he heard the threads of music from upstairs. "I thought he was going to rest."

"That may be his idea of resting," Bodie said, rummaging in the fridge and finding ice cream. "He's good, isn't he?"

Ray gave him a look of mock reproach. "What would you know about it? But you're not wrong. He good. Could be another Perlman, or Zukerman, an a few years' time--- if the bloody KGB stay off his back."

"Let Cowley fix it," Bodie suggested. "Want some ice cream?"

"Ice cream and tea?" Doyle demanded, pouring boiling water on the tea bags. "I've got more respect for my teeth, mate!"

'Have 'em out," Bodie grinned.

Dimitri Rostropovitch was almost silent that evening, awkward and ill at ease. Bodie tried unsuccessfully to engage him in conversation, and at length let it go, dividing his attention between Doyle and the deck of cards that was slowly being laid out on the coffee table in front of the couch in the circular pattern of clock patience. He had only ever managed to get the game to work out: twice in his life, and he thought for a few minutes that it might be about to work a third time, before the structure of it came apart. If he cheated it would work, but that only defeated the object, and, irritated, he stuffed the cards back into their box. Ray was reading, an article on artificial intelligence in Playboy.

"Not your usual reading matter, is it?" Bodie said, sounding as bored as he felt. "Thought you'd be sizing up the centrefold."

"Already sized it up," Doyle muttered, "not my style either. I'm trying to soak up a few morsels of the jargon. Going to belt Kate Ross 'round the ear with them next chance I get."

"Ah, method in the madness." Bodie smiled, noticing that Dimitri was hanging onto their conversation. Trying to learn? He spoke the language well, but was short on the colloquialisms. The kid sat in the armchair beside the television, and he was still studying Doyle, albeit covertly. Ray did not appear to have noticed the scrutiny yet.

"Anything on the box?" Bodie went on, going through the magazine rack for a newspaper. "Hmm. Game shows. Game shows ... Wildlife documentary. The Land That Time Forgot. Want to watch that?"

"I've seen it twice," Ray said, not looking up from the paper. "Watch it if you want, though." He yawned. "Think I might have an early night anyway. All this indolence makes me tired."

"It's only nine o'clock," Bodie protested.

Doyle's green eyes met his over the top of the magazine, and there was laughter in them. "What's the matter, Bodie? You're like a herring an a griddle."

"Just bored," Bodie sighed. "Had to break a date tonight."

"The lovely Julia." Ray nodded. "Tough luck, Bodie, but she'll understand, won't she?"

"I bloody well hope so," Bodie grinned. "She's already made several fruity remarks about us, sunshine."

Ray frowned. "Fruity remarks about us? Like what?"

"About the amount of time we spend together, about the number of times we break dates and head off in the same direction. Okay, so she's wide of the target, but what would you think? The other day she got rather cross with me. 'Why don't you go and ruffle Raymond's pretty curls,' she said." He chuckled. "I gaped at her then collapsed in hysterics."

"I might have batted her across the skull, myself," Ray said dryly. He sighed. "No, I can see where she'd get the idea." He yawned. "I'm tired. Why don't you two watch the film? I'm going to call it a day." He tossed the Playboy back into the magazine rack and departed.

It was only when he had gone that Bodie saw the disappointed look an Dimitri's face, an expression quickly hidden with averted eyes. Bodie frowned. If he didn't know better -- No, that was ridiculous. The kid was just scared and nervous, and looking for a friend.

Bodie put the observation aside and had forgotten about it by the morning, but over breakfast it was reinforced. Ray called in to Central by R/T while Bodie made toast and fried bacon, and he still had not noticed how the Russian boy's eyes followed him everywhere. Or, if he'd noticed it he was not letting on. Bodie wondered which it was. The morning was every bit as boring as last evening had been, and then Jax and Anson arrived at noon to take over for them.

They passed by in the hall. Anson was lighting up a cigar as he arrived, and Jax was grumbling about buying a gas mask. Doyle thumped the coloured agent on the back -- the two of them were old friends. They had been recruited in the same 'batch' as Bodie himself, and had worked together in Vice before that.

The sounds of Beethoven and Sarasate had been wafting down the stairs, but at the growl of the approaching car there was quiet, and Dimitri came jogging down the stairs. Bodie watched him neatly intercept Ray before 4.5 could escape. "When will you be back?"

"Oh, About lunch time the day after tomorrow," Ray shrugged. "Is there something you want? I'll bring, it, if I can."

'Well..." Dimitri fished around for something to say. "Books," he said then, and it did not seem like a fabrication. "I need to read, to know more about this country, if I'm going to be a British citizen."

Ray smiled. "Okay, I'll bring you some. Library books or paperbacks -- you like 'am sexy or intellectual?"

"Both, actually," Dimitri admitted, colouring a little. "There are two writers. Clive Cussler --"

"The Dirk Pitt books," Ray nodded. "And?"

"Harold Robbins," the boy said with a self-conscious smile.

"Money for old grope," Ray laughed. "Okay, I'll bring some. See you later, son. You can play for me on Friday -- I'll be looking forward to that. You know the Dvorak violin concerto?"

Dimitri lifted his chin -- pride. "Da. I played it in Leningrad just last year. I'll play it for you. On Friday. I..." His blush deepened by a few shades. "I shall be looking forward also to that."

Bodie honked the horn, and Ray left the house at a jog, feeling the boy's eyes on his back. It was disturbing. It was almost a relief to get away, though he did not feel threatened by the lad's attention. It was just something that was unusual. Bodie gave him a wry smile as he slid into the car and slammed the door. "Ivan the Terrible seems to have taken quite a shine to you."

At first Ray protested innocence. 'What are you talking about?"

"Come on, you're not blind. And even if you were, you don't have to be clairvoyant. He's getting quite attached to you."

"Yeah, I've noticed," Ray growled. "What d'you reckon it is?"

"A crush. Infatuation," Bodie said, starting the car. "It'll probably wear off, don't worry. It's the stranger-in-a-strange-land thing. Doesn't matter much."

"He doesn't look gay, " Ray mused. "Bisexual, I suppose. I mean he looks as normal as you or I."

A chuckle escaped Bodie's throat. "And who's to say, Raymond, my lad, what's normal?" He batted his long, blue-black lashes as Doyle and pulled of the driveway before Ray could think of a word to say.

They were tailing drug runners until Friday noon; the work was repetitious, tedious, and Bodie was pleased when they were rotated onto the 'babysitting' assignment and other operatives took over the thankless paper chase. Ray was pensive, hoping that Dimitri had found scan other focus for his attention, but he had underestimated the level of affection the boy had generated -- and so had Bodie.

The youngster's face lit up with undisguised pleasure as the two of them appeared, and Susan and Murphy departed for other duties. Bodie gave Ray a nudge with one elbow. "Keep your hand on your holiday money, he's after your virtue, sweetie."

"Knock it off, Bodie," Ray hissed, "it's no laughing matter." Before they were in earshot of the front door, where Dimitri stood, he turned back to Bodie. "Hey, if that girlfriend of yours looks at us and thinks she knows what we are, maybe he is thinking the saw thing."

"Maybe so." Bodie shrugged indifferently.

"Doesn't sound as if it bothers you," Doyle muttered.

Bodie blinked at him. "It doesn't bother me. Why should it?"

"Well, if people think we're---well, you know."

"Say it, Ray, your tongue won't snap off at the roots."

Ray took a breath. "Okay. If people think we're bisexual..."

"Yeah? What about it? It's nobody's business but ours."

"But we're not!" Doyle said, sounding a little aghast. "At least I'm not," he added, in a tone that said, 'and all at once I'm not so bloody sure about you, mate!'

"Oh, get down off your rocking horse, you clot, " Bodie smiled. "Who gives a damn? It's 1982, it's not worth fretting about. Who cares what anyone thinks? You know who you are, that's good enough. Look, can't you just humour the kid a bit? Smile at him, talk to him."

"Yeah, " Ray sighed, "I suppose so. Makes me a bit nervy, though. I knew a lot of gays when I was with Vice, and I used to watch them, listen to them, but they knew better than to make eyes at a Copper."

"So you've never had a sweet- young boy make eyes at you before, Bodie said with a wicked grin.

"Well, no." Doyle drew himself up. "That's not my scene, is it? I don't go out looking for that kind of thing, do I?"

He turned on his heel, marching toward the front door, and Bodie frowned after him, watching the long, denim-clad legs. No, Doyle did not go out looking for that sort of thing; often, it came looking for him, but he was so preoccupied with his job and his private life that he never bothered to notice it. Bodie's mouth twitched into a smile as he watched Doyle walk away from him; he'd liked watching Ray walk away since the first day they'd met, and if ever there were ladders to be climbed, he made sure Ray went up first. There was nothing in it, it was purely platonic, Bodie just liked to look. Nice things deserved to be looked at, and if Doyle's legs and backside were nothing else, they were nice to behold. He bit: off a chuckle, looking up at Dimitri. The young blond violinist was a nice kid, quiet, gentle and unassuming, attractive and intelligent... And he had bloody good taste, Bodie had to admit. It was a little odd: he and Dimitri must have a lot in common, if they had both focused on the same object for their unspoken appreciation.

That afternoon, Ray tried hard to relax and managed it after several cups of tea while Dimitri brought out his priceless Guanari and tuned it lovingly. His hands were large and long fingered, sensitive and agile. Doyle, himself a musician of sorts, envied him the dexterity as he drew the rosin block over the bow, tucked a red handkerchief between the chin rest and his jaw, and took the head of the Guanari into the crook of his left hand. In the confines of the room the violin was almost deafening, but one quickly grew accustomed to the volume; Ray listened to music with headphones, as a rule, and occasionally turned up the sound to deliberately blow his brain clear of whatever nonsense had been fed into it by the remorseless Twentieth Century...

Dimitri played Dvorak as if the concerto had been written for him. The cadences were exotic, long ago familiar, and Ray's memory filled in the orchestra part. He let his eyelids fall, let himself sweep away with the lilting beauty of the music. The melodies were heart stopping, speaking of a deep yearning, a longing, perhaps to return home, perhaps for the company of someone no longer present. The rhythms were irresistible; as usual when he listened to music, his whole body moved gently.

To Bodie, it was almost as fascinating to watch Ray as it was to hear Dimitri.- Doyle should have been a dancer, not a painter. He had the slim physique, the natural agility, the sensitivities to rhythm and metre...

But the world of the professional dancer was an alien one to him. Too much softness, too many gays there -- which was not to say that all dancers were gay, by any means. Watching Baryshnikov, Bodie was often reminded of Doyle -- the two of them were so much alike in build and stature -- Baryshnikov's legs and backside packed into tight blue denim were almost a mirror image of Ray's -- and Baryshnikov could not be called gay by a long stretch of the imagination! The opposite was more the case. He was as much a rake as was Ray Doyle, if reports were accurate.

Then Bodie watched Dimitri. Classical music was not his usual fare, but given the piece, he liked it. One would have to be tone deaf and a cretin not to like pieces such as the Moonlight Sonata, the Meditation from Thais, the pyrotechnics of Sarasate, the 'lying an a beach near Cartajena in 1718 waiting to be rescued by Errol Flynn' romances of Saint-Saens... When one visited with Ray, one got to know these things! Ray's tastes were nothing short of ubiquitous; now Mozart, now Vangelis at his noisiest. It all depended on his mood.

And Ray was floating away on the Dvorak; Bodie hid a smile. If the Russian had set out to woo the object of his affections, he could have done it no more adroitly and elegantly, and Ray was falling for it, hook, line and sinker. Bodie stepped back and left them to it. Pity about Ray if he got himself into deep water. Dimitri was a good looking kid; Bodie liked what he saw, and it would not bother him one iota to watch the two of them hit it off. In fact, he would have endless fun ribbing Ray about it for the rest of his life. He let his eyes stray over Doyle's slender body, wondering just how it might be to---

Then he shook himself, hard. That was a bloody silly thing to think about -- all right to laugh about, but it did not bear serious thought. The music spiralled into silence and Dimitri used the red handkerchief to mop the beading of perspiration from his forehead. Doyle blinked his eyes open with a dreamy smile -- the kind of smile Bodie would have expected from him if he had just woken after making love. The expression was for Dimitri, and he watched the lad swallow convulsively. Ray had absolutely no idea how thoughtlessly, artlessly seductive he could be, and at all the wrong times. "Beautiful, Dimitri," he said softly. "I've never heard it played better... And I've never had it played for me. I wish I'd had a tape deck! Never mind, when you start recording with the big orchestras over here, I'll buy the album."

"I'll give you an autographed one," Dimitri muttered.

"Tea, anyone?" Bodie said quickly, made a dive for the kitchen to put the kettle on, and abandoned Doyle to his fate.

Ray glanced after him, half guessing what he was up to, and relaxed as Dimitri sat down in the armchair. Humour the kid, smile at him, talk to him, Bodie had said. Why not? What harm could it do, unless Dimitri got the impression that he was being given the come-on.

So Ray talked; he knew enough about music and musicians to engage Dimitri Rostropovitch in pleasant conversation that spilled over out of the afternoon and into the evening, and even Bodie chimed in with some outrageous yarns from West Germany. The terrorist scares around two big concert halls where Von Karajan was conducting -- the evacuation of the Berlin Philharmonic, while he was with OSG-9, just minutes before a bomb was detonated in Cologne.

For the most part, Bodie simply sat back and watched them; it was a treat to watch Ray digging himself in deeper, but before the evening was out he had begun to worry. Sooner or later, Ray would slam the shutters down, and Dimitri was going to get his fingers broken if he was not very, very careful. Bodie need not have worried; the Russian boy was astute enough to tell the difference between pleasant conversation and a chat-up. He said nothing personal, made no move, and if anything, the following morning, he looked sad and subdued.

Because he knew that Ray was off-limits? Bodie wondered, or because he assumed that Ray was already spoken for -- making the same mistake that Julia had made? In the final analysis, it made no difference, and Dimitri looked downhearted as they drank coffee and ate cream cakes at eleven o'clock. Doyle was watching the clock; Susan and Murphy would be here at noon to relieve them, and Bodie got the impression that Ray would find it a great relief to be out of the way.

For some reason, that irritated Bodie. He had to search his own feelings to discover the reason. He liked Dimitri, he realised, and it was annoying to watch the kid made dispirited. But it was Ray's business, not his, and Bodie held his tongue, wondering what he could, or even should say. It was not until Dimitri departed for the bathroom that he spoke up about it, and Ray sighed heavily. "Kid's in love with you," Bodie observed quietly.

"I know," Ray muttered. "I'm trying to think of some way to let him down gently. I don't want to hurt him, you know. He's too nice a bloke to tread on his toes."

"I'm glad you've noticed that," Bodie said dryly.

"Oh, I've noticed," Doyle said uncomfortably. "But I've never given him any reason to think that I might feel the same way --"

"Except for the fact that he keeps looking at the two of us," Bodie shrugged. "We squabble and argue like old lovers---"

"For Christ's sake!" Doyle said quickly.

Bodie blinked at him. "We do," he said mildly. "Everyone can see it but you. The fact we're not old-lovers is almost inconsequential."

"But it's not true," Ray said defensively.

"But they don t know that," Bodie grinned, "do they?" He made a face at Doyle's aghast expression. "Oh, calm down, you prima donna. I'm not about to make an assault an your virtue. Not unless you want me to."

Ray shot a glance at him, trying to see the motivation for that remark behind the mischief. "You would, wouldn't you, if I gave you the come- on?"

"Well, I'm not as up-tight as you are," Bodie said dismissively.

"I've heard about you mercs," Ray growled.

"Oh,? And what have you heard?" Bodie was playing, teasing mercilessly.

Doyle wished he'd kept his mouth shut. "Well, you're in the bush. You're miles from anywhere. All you've got for company's men---"

"And boys," Bodie expanded. "They're not all six-foot-six and craggy as John Wayne. A lot of 'em are nice to look at. Oh, drop the subject before you drive your blood pressure up a couple of notches. It's long in the past for me, sunshine; doesn't bother me one way or the other, so relax. I'm only kidding you." He cast a glance after Dimitri. "Pity to see him hurting, though."

"Yeah, " Ray admitted, "it is. All that talent, and there's a lot of love in him... Oh, he'll find somebody who'll give him, what he wants. He's still just a kid, and this is a big country. I mean, how many times d'you fall in love, as a kid, and nothing comes of it?"

Bodie nodded in agreement. "Yep--- that's all there is to it. Just an unhappy love affair---"

"Oh, Bodie, put a lid on it," Doyle said dryly. "Takes two to make a love affair -- and I'm not one of them." He stirred uncomfortably. "In any case, Cowley's going to get it all sorted out soon, and we won't be on this baby-sitting duty any longer. Probably won't even see Dimitri again, except an telly. He'll be a celebrity. People of all genders chucking themselves at him."

"Good looking kid like that won't have a problem," Bodie yawned, "but all the same, it's a pity that --"

The ear-destroying crash as the front door hammered in cut him off, and he and Doyle dove to the floor, clawing for their weapons as 9m rounds hosed out of two automatic rifles, chewing into the wall behind the couch. They dove into the cover of furniture, hugging the floor as plaster dust rained down on them. Feet were pounding on the stairs.

The Browning automatic in Doyle's hands kicked again as he snapped off half a dozen rounds, aiming reflexively on the bulky shape in the doorway 'The mm was tall and heavy, fleshy rather than muscular, and he absorbed the rounds, spinning into the door jamb but not going down. It was Bodie's fire that put him on his back, and then he and Doyle were up, flattening out beside the lounge room door.

Heavy footfalls hammered upstairs. "Who the bloody hell -- and how?" Bodie muttered.

"Dimitri's the bloody target -- that makes it KGB," Doyle growled, "how? God knows, They won't get him out of the house, but --"

Three shots from upstairs clipped off his words, and he and Bodie shared a brief, tense glance. "They didn't come to take him," Bodie said on a raw note, "they came to kill him. Jesus Christ!"

Fury churned in Doyle's innards as he slipped the magazine out of the Browning and reloaded, his fingers nimble and quick. "Well, they're not getting out of here, are they?" His voice was husky with emotion held rigidly in control... Dimitri was dead. Dead. And that was the end of it, talent, love, everything.

Bodie went up the stairs first as Doyle covered him, the by-the-book sweep they had practised a thousand times before. The gunman was tall and thin, clad in a blue overcoat, a machine pistol in both hands, but he was caught in the act of reloading when Doyle and Bodie caught sight of him in the same instant. Machine pistols cycled at a ridiculous rate; a whole clip burned off so fast that in action they were suicidal.

The man died in an instant, tossed back into the wall, blood fanning in the air as fire from two automatic handguns tore through him, and then Doyle took to his heels, going by Bodie in search of the Russian boy. He was on his face in the bathroom doorway, and at first all Ray saw was the blood. It took another moment for him to roll him over, look for the wound that had killed him, and then he saw that there were no marks on the body, just a deep crease across the back of his skull from which blood oozed thickly, like treacle. It was just habit that sent Ray's fingers to the kid's throat in search of a pulse, but what he felt there stopped him in his tracks.

He glared up at Bodie, who had the, R/T in his hand. "Christ, he's not dead! Bodie, he's not dead! Get Central to send an ambulance!"

Right." Bodie keyed the R/T. "3.7 to Central. Two gunmen at the safehouse. Both dead. Target was Rostropovitch. Send an ambulance, fast."

It was there in under ten minutes, and incredibly, Dimitri hung on. Ray rode in the back with him, a quick dash along the Thames embankment and over the bridge, to Guy's. They were set up and waiting by the time the ambulance pulled into the crash ward, and as Bodie appeared from the lift after parking the car down below, Dimitri was being hurried through the doors of the operating theatre.

The two men stood looking at one another- as a nurse pushed papers at them. 'Now what?" Bodie muttered, rummaging for a Biro and beginning to fill out the standard hospital releases.

"Dunno." Ray heaved a sigh. "He lives, he dies... Don't reckon much to his chances, unless they can get the 'bullet out. Then you've got brain damage to think about. Christ, it's not fair!"

"Look, calm down, get a cup of tea, give the forms to me," Bodie told him. "Cowley's on his way."

"And he'll wave a magic wand, I suppose," Ray said bitterly.

Bodie glanced darkly at him; Ray was hurting. Damn -- had he become fond of the kid? Of course he had -- so had Bodie. Dimitri was like a pet kitten, the kind of person old ladies bequeathed their fortunes to and sixteen year old girls fell in love with on sight. He sighed, watching Ray pace between the water cooler and the ward desk.

Cowley arrived fifteen minutes later, but there was no news. Bodie and Doyle hung around for an hour, and then the surgeons appeared and waved them away home-. There was nothing to tell, or nothing they would tell yet. Ray suspected the latter, and that boded ill for Dimitri.

They got more out of Cowley, who phoned the hospital from Central that evening, just as they were signing out. He called them into his office and gave the news in terse tones. "They can't get the bullet out; it's in such a place that it'll kill him to remove it."

"And if it stays in there?" Bodie asked quietly. "He's dead either way, isn't he?"

"Aye, I'm afraid so," George said with much regret. "They say that it's possible they might be able to operate with a slight chance of, success, but even if they cut the bullet out he'd be paralysed, probably blind too... What do I tell them? I can't make that decision. Dimitri will have to make it for himself, if we tell him."

There was a long, painful silence, and then it was Doyle who spoke. "No. Don't tell him, sir. He's too young, just a kid. It'll scare him to death. One way he's dead, the other way he's got a 99.999% chance of being a blind cripple. You can't do that to a person like him."

"Still," Cowley said, "it's his decision."

But Bodie agreed with Doyle. "He's not up to that kind of decision, sir. And in any case, what the hell kind of decision is it? If you offered me the choice... How long has he got before the bullet in his head kills him? And what kind of life has he, before it happens?"

"Well, they say he's awake and aware," Cowley mused, "and they've given him steroids to take the swelling down, so he's mobile. He's quite normal, and will be until such times as it moves by a fraction, and then he'll collapse. A cerebral haemorrhage. All over, quickly."

Doyle and Bodie looked levelly at one another. "What would you do?" Bodie said seriously.

Doyle took a breath. "How long has he got, if they don't operate?"

"They're not sure," Cowley sighed. "A few days, a few weeks, a month or two. If they operate, they could kill him on the table tonight, or leave him a cripple --"

"Until he died of a broken heart in a year's time," Doyle said quietly. "He'd be dead just as surely." He passed a hand before his eyes. "The kindest thing to do, sir, is nothing. Let him have a few good weeks, or days, or whatever he can get, and go out cleanly. He's going out anyway, that's what you're telling me, right?"

"One chance in a thousand that they won't kill or cripple him," the Scot said sadly. "Not very good odds."

"Would you play, given those odds?" Bodie asked soberly.

"No." Cowley shook his head. "No, I wouldn't. So they don't try to operate. And we bury him soon." He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Look, he can come home tomorrow; according to the doctors there's nothing they can do for him in there. They've stuck a bandage an his head, they didn't even take a scalpel to him, just ran x-rays. While the bullet is where it is he's not in pain and not dizzy..." He got his feet under him, slipping his glasses back onto his nose. "Off home, both of you. I'll met you at Guy's tomorrow, when the doctors call me. Dimitri was asking for you, Doyle."

"He's lucid?" Ray asked, astonished

"Oh yes; he'll be fairly normal till the bullet moves."

"Then shouldn't he be kept still?" Bodie asked, and then answered his own question. "What for? A prisoner in a hospital bed to buy himself a few more days -- days of what? Boredom and unhappiness. Why bother?"

"My feeling exactly," Cowley agreed. "I'll call you when I know more. . . Goodnight to you"

When the call reached them they were parked by the embankment, looking out at the river, eating junk food and watching a barge make way upstream. Bodie took the call, taking the R/T from his pocket, and in a moment more they dumped the hotdog detritus and headed for Guy's. It was almost four o'clock and traffic was congested. Parking at the hospital was a joke and Bodie was furious by the time he located space for the car. "Cowley's meeting us here," he said as they rode the lift up. "I'd better wait for him, out here..."

"No guts?" Ray asked bleakly.

"No guts," Bodie admitted. "And besides, it's you he wants to see."

"Yeah." Ray heaved a sigh. "What makes you think I've got an more guts than you have?"

He said no more to Bodie, and the taller, darker man watched him front up to the ward desk to get the room number and vanish through the door of room E-25. Bodie sank down onto the couch to watch the lift for the boss' arrival.

The wide, dark eyes were heavy, groggy, but Dimitri Rostropovitch was awake and alert. There was a bandage an the back of his head but the long yellow hair almost covered it. He was sitting on the side of the bed and looked up as Ray appeared at the door; a nurse was fussing with bottles and packets of tablets and they waited until she had gone before speaking. Regret made Doyle's tone husky. "Bet you've got a headache."

"A bit, but they gave me pills." The Russian accent was more pronounced with the strain of it, and the words were a little slurred. "I just want to get out of here. Want to go with you. Take me out of here Ray. Please."

'They said you can leave today, son," Ray told him. "You're... lucky, you know." The words nearly choked him. Lucky? That was like a bad joke. "You know what they call it -- the freedom of the grave. They think you're dead now. Now, you're safe." Safe, he calls it! He thought. Two days, a week, a fortnight -- Christ, it's not fair! So long as he never knows. "They sent come looking for you anymore, so you can relax." He stuffed his hands into his pockets, looking down into the youngster's face and seeing all the signs of loving there, darkening eyes, mouth soft with wanting. It was almost a pity that Dimitri's emotion was unrequited -- no, scratch that. It was a bloody great shame, because time to find someone else was the one thing the kid did not have.

He was wearing a blush as Ray studied him and Doyle searched for something to say that would make him feel easier. "You look in the best of health," he lied smoothly, "they can't keep you in here much longer. Anything I can bring you?"

But Dimitri shook his head. "No, I just want to leave. Ray, what will happen to me now? I can't be a musician, can I?"

"No," Doyle agreed. "Not on the concert platform. It's too visible. But you can teach -- new identity, new location, they won't catch up with you, you'll be safe and still working in the world you love, music." Keep the lies logical, he thought bleakly.

There was silence, then Dimitri said, "Will I ever see you again? You and Bodie," he added quickly.

Ray forced a smile. "Course you will. All the time, I expect. That's what friends are for, aren't they? You can play for me any time you like. I love classical music -- Bodie's a bit of a cretin, but maybe we can educate him between us."

"Cretin?" Dimitri frowned. "What is that?"

"I just mean that he doesn't know his Sarasate from his Stravinsky, which is his loss... I have to go, son. Mr. Cowley's meeting Bodie and me here. We'll come for you as soon as they say you can leave. Take you somewhere nice. See you later, Dimitri. Just try and rest, eh?"

Cowley was talking to Bodie in the waiting room as he approached. "-- KGB is satisfied that he was shot dead, so say my sources," he was saying, "but they're officially denying any knowledge of it. They located the house by monitoring, the movements of CI-5 agents since the boy defected and was passed into the hands of the Police. They must: have been following you, and Murphy and Susan, and Jax and Anson. God only knows how -- long range lenses, perhaps. We must be on our toes in future. They're getting better. They want the body back, of course, but we shall stall them, until.. '"

"Until Dimitri's dead, and there's a body to give them," Ray said bitterly.

"Yes." The Scot sounded almost as bitter. "It won't be long, so they tell me. It's a wonder he survived at all." He stirred. "And since they're releasing him we have to decide what to do with him. No need to mount a security cordon around him now, but he shouldn't be on open exhibition. He needs to have someone with him, too; who knew when it will happen... Suggestions?"

It was Bodie who spoke. "He could come home with one of us."

"Aye, perhaps that would be for the best. He knows and trusts you." Cowley spread his hands eloquently. "What more can we do? Take care of him, keep him off the street. If he's seen it could still go badly."

"How?" Ray demanded. "The kid's dead on his feet already. "

"If he's seen there could be are shooting, " Bodie said softly, "and one of us could be just as dead... Leave it to us, sir, we'll sort it out."

When Cowley had departed Ray sighed. "Toss you for him?"

Bodie's eyes flared anger. "You're being bloody callous!"

"Sorry. I didn't mean it like that," Doyle said quickly, defensively. "But which of us-- No, as a matter of fact I think both of us had better be there."

"Both of us?" Bodie asked mildly.

"Well, you know how he feels," Ray said uncomfortably.

"He's in love with you." It was a flat statement.

"So it might not be a good idea for the two of us to be alone."

"Afraid for your virtue?" Bodie said acidly.

Doyle shot a sharp glance at him. "Afraid for the poor kid's tender feelings... The last thing I want to do is hurt him."

"I know," Bodie sighed, and passed a hand across his eyes. "Okay. Both of us. We'll take him back to your place, you've got a spare room. I'm not breaking my back on the couch, mind you. If he gets the spare bedroom I get the spare side of your bed. Deal?"

''In the interests of your delicate lumbar region, deal," Ray said with a faint smile. He looked at the time. "When can he go home?"

"They said a couple of hours, " Bodie told him.

"How about we grab a bite of lunch and come back?"

"Right," Bodie- agreed. He frowned deeply at Doyle. "It really bothers you, doesn't it?"

'What bothers me?" Ray was already heading for the lifts.

"That he loves you. Threatens your masculinity or something."

The notion caught Doyle off guard. "No, not really. He's a nice kid, .got bags of talent --"

"And he's good looking and young too," Bodie added.

Doyle gave him a wry look. "Christ, it sounds like you might fancy him yourself."

"I ought to belt you," Bodie said, a hint of real anger in his voice. "That was an observation of the facts! If it doesn't bother you, why're you so defensive?"

"I'm not," Ray muttered, "it's just... I'm sorry for him. Really. I wish I could do something to make him feel better."

"You could, " Bodie said pointedly. "If you wanted to."

"Maybe I ought to belt you," Doyle said levelly. "What d'you think I am, Bodie?"

"Hard hearted, " Bodie said promptly.

"Oh, and you'd screw around with him if it was you he was in love with, would you?"

Bodie took a breath. "I'd think about it at least. You're scared of it, aren't you? Afraid of being branded a gay? You 're a virgin, then?"

"Of course I'm a virgin!" They were in the lift, alone, and Ray was honestly aghast. "I've never done that! For Christ's sake, Bodie!"

. "All right, drop the subject, forget I said anything. " Bodie knew that he had pushed his partner as far as Ray was ready to go at that moment. In a few more questions he would be angry, then furious, then unforgiving, and -- sad as Bodie was to admit it, he was entitled to his own feelings and opinions. And when young Dimitri Rostropovitch was no more than a memory 3.7 and 4.5 still had to live and work together.

But that did not make Bodie one bit less annoyed. The arrogant, macho little spitfire wouldn't budge an inch -- afraid for his male dignity. Him, so bloody masculine he could get away with blue murder! It made Bodie want to tear the clothes off him and hold him down and screw him senseless on the spot. The notion shocked him and be backed off fast. Thoughts like that went beyond dangerous right to suicidal.

The patient walked down to the silver Capri under his own steam and Bodie threaded through the afternoon traffic out to Chelsea, along the way picking up takeaway food and wine, and films for Doyle's new video. Ray was silent, brooding, and had been so since their brief but passionate confrontation in the lift. He had not forgotten a word, Bodie thought, and it was eating at him. For a moment he honestly wanted to apologise to Doyle for the things he had suggested, but then he caught sight of the boy in the rear view mirror, and the words died unspoken. Dimitri sat gazing wistfully at the back of Ray's curly head.

How difficult could it be to make him deliriously happy for the last few days or weeks of his life? Bodie wished it was him Dimitri wanted. That would have simplified matters no end. Ray was just making things worse. He was still silent when they walked into his flat, and when he met Bodie's eyes Bodie saw the troubled look in the green gaze. Dimitri ate a little, then began to yawn with the medication. "I think I must lie crown," he said. ."Where will I sleep now?"

"Through here," Ray told him, and showed him into the spare room. "Just rest. We'll buzz over to Central and get your things. You'd like to have your instrument, wouldn't you?"

"Yes," Dimitri said, "but couldn't Bodie go? Don't leave me, Ray."

"You're perfectly safe here," Doyle said softly, "and it won't take long."

"Yes, but, Ray--" There was pain in Dimitri's voice. It strummed across Ray's nerves, made him want to take to his heels and yet stay here and comfort him. Confused, he turned away, surprised to find Bodie standing right behind him, watching them with a frown. "We'll get your stuff, son," Ray told him. "Be back in an hour or so, okay? Come on, Bodie? The sooner we get moving the sooner we'll get back."

Bodie was annoyed, Doyle felt that at once, and there was no real surprise as he realised that the anger was directed at him. He slammed the car door and crooked a brow at his partner. "What have I done now?"

"Nothing," Bodie said tartly, "'You haven't done anything -- that's the problem."

"What are we talking about:?" Doyle demanded, hiding behind vagueness.

"Dimitri." Bodie shot a glance at his partner that was crackling. "That poor kid's going to turn up his toes--"

"I know," Doyle said quickly, "and I'm as sorry about it as you are."

"Are you?" Bodie's lip curled. "he's crazy about you. You're the first and last shot at love life's going to give him, and you just walked away from him. He's going to die, Ray. And he's up to his elbows in love with you!"

Doyle took a breath and closed his eyes. "I know that too. I... I feel for him, Bodie, but -- Christ, I'm not gay. What do you want me to do?"

"A kindness for a kid who's up against the wall," Bodie muttered. "Take him to bed with you, make him think- he's loved. Let him go out happy."

The words, stated so flatly, gave Ray a jolt. "Take him to bed?"

"Make love to him, you idiot," Bodie said, exasperated.

"But I told you, I'm not bloody gay!"

"You don't have to be, just go through the motions. He loves you so much he'll never know the difference." Bodie gave Ray a shrewd look. "You do know how, don't you?"

A pained expression gathered in Doyle's eyes. "Not in any great detail. It's not my scene, is it? I'd Probably hurt him and frighten him, and that'd be worse than doing nothing at all."

Bodie sighed. "All you have to do is be gentle, go slowly, bring him off with your hands and your mouth, do all the things you know feel good, then keep still and let him play with your body... Shut your eyes and you won't tell it's a boy. Could be a girl who's kissing you hard and stroking you. You know to use plenty of oil or jelly, don't you? Just make believe he's a girl if you have to, spread his legs and be careful." He shot- a glance at Doyle to see what reaction he was getting.

A deep, rosy blush stained Ray's cheeks. His voice was low and husky. "You seem to know a lot about it. Voice of experience."

"Merchant navy, mercs, prison, army," Bodie said softly. "I told you it's a long time in the past for me."

There was a long pause, then Doyle cleared his throat. "'You think I can do it?"

"Course you can. Anyone can."

Another pause. "Bodie, you make it sound like it's good."

At the note in Ray's voice Bodie's pulse rate doubled in a second. "It is good, if you're with a partner who knows what he's doing, who likes you and suits you.''

"Christ, you're not gay," Doyle muttered. "Are you?"

"No, just a randy old toad" Bodie grinned. "A warm body's a warm body, a hug is a hug. A man's mouth is just as hot and wet and soft as a girl's and caresses are caresses. Making love to a man isn't much different to taking a woman, but being made love to, well, that's something you have to feel to understand. Blows your mind away... Heat and pressure inside of you, arousal like you can't believe."

Beside him, Ray shivered and his groin muscles twitched. He turned to study Bodie's face. "You reckon... You reckon you could -- oh, this is ridiculous!"

"Do I reckon I could do what?" Bodie prompted. "Dimitri doesn't want me, he wants you."

"Yeah, but--" Ray took a breath. "Do you reckon you could do it to me that way?" he said, fast, before he could choke off the words again.

Bodie's blue eyes darkened by shades. "You want it?"

"Dunno," Doyle muttered, his eyes drawn to Bodie's legs. "Maybe."

"Thought you said you didn't fancy blokes."

"I don't, " Ray sighed. " It's just, the way you were talking. . . "

He said no more but Bodie guessed the rest. "It got you going?"

"Yeah," Doyle admitted quietly. "I'm a fairly randy old ram myself, you know, and only idiots turn their backs on a bit of pleasure."

Bodie smiled at him, no longer teasing or lecturing. "Yeah, I could teach you a thing or two about yourself, sunshine, if you were ever in the mood. But it's not you I'm annoyed about, it's him. Don't let him die without-- ever knowing it, Ray, not when all you have to do is tuck him up in your bed and treat him gently until he's asleep. Ray?"

Doyle seemed to come awake. ''But I've never done it this way before. He'll be expecting me to know what I'm doing, and I'll mess it up."

"No, you won't, not if you're careful. I've got a feeling he's a virgin anyway, he'll never tell if your technique's a bit unpractised. Besides, he loves you so much he'd forgive you a thousand mistakes."

"You think I can. You think I should." They were not questions. Ray heaved a sigh. "You're probably right.''

"I am right," Bodie said softly. "Come on, Ray. It's just a kindness. I know you're not a faggot, no one else is ever going to know. The kid's dying. How would you like it if the person you loved ignored you when you were never going to get another chance?"

"All right, all right." Ray forced a smile. "I'll... Give it a go. I can bring him off at least, that's not difficult and it might be enough." He gave Bodie a wry look. "I hope you know what you're getting me into."

Bodie's expression warmed. "Course I know. Wouldn't send you out to do anything daft or dangerous, would I? Just be kind to him. When will you do it?"

Doyle blinked. "Tomorrow."

"Don't procrastinate. He might be dead tomorrow. Today."

"It's too fast,'' Ray said thickly, "Give me time to think---"

"No thinking. That's the dumbest thing you can do! Go now, do it now, think later. Go!"

The car door squealed open. "I'll kick your shins if this goes wrong," Doyle said dryly, and meant it.

He slammed the door hard and Bodie watched him pace up to the front door of the block of flats, all long legs and narrow hips and swinging shoulders. Unexpectedly, he felt a deep pang of envy and checked himself fast. As he thought about what Doyle was going to do in there, the pang returned; and his body stirred willfully. He choked off a chuckle. "Bloody hell, he's got me at it now... Watch it, Bodie, or you'll be picking your teeth out of the carpet -- but the randy little sod practically asked me to---damn!'' He started the car and pulled out.

Daylight was amber, filtered through the drawn blinds in the bedroom. It made Dimitri look very soft, very young, and Ray sighed. He was asleep and Doyle stood at the door, grateful for the opportunity to look over the situation , without argument or interruption. The kid had long, slim legs and perfect skin, soft, yellow hair and a mouth that was full and gentle. Maybe Bodie was right, he would feel soft and smooth.

But lie was still a man. Thank God he was asleep, Ray thought, hoping for the chance to procrastinate further, but the squeak of a floorboard under his feet as moved brought Dimitri awake with a jolt, and his eyes snapped toward the door. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw who it was, and struggled to sit up. "I thought you'd gone."

Ray was conscious that he was playing a part. But if he played it well enough his audience of one would never be the wiser. He came to the bedside and sat down, his face warming with a smile. "I came back. It's time we talked. Past time, right?"

The boy blinked. "You -- you mean---"

"Us," Doyle murmured. Dimitri just gaped at him. "Am I wrong? Say the word and I'll shove off, son." Ray's voice was soft and husky. He watched Dimitri swallow.

He averted his eyes, colouring up. No, you're not wrong. I didn't mean to offend, I... I just felt..."

"Hey," Ray said, "I'm not offended. As a matter of fact I'm flattered."

The boy looked up sharply, drinking in the Englishman's smile and thinking it the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. "As a matter of fact," Ray continued gently, "that's why I came back. Tell me what you want, Dimitri."

"What I want?" He cleared his throat and his words were indistinct. Doyle had to guess most of them. "I love you, I want you to touch me. I'm sorry. "

He meant it, and Ray's heart went out to him. The poor little bugger was an the verge of tears, thinking he'd finally gone too far, and innocently at that. Ray reached out to cup his chin, finding it smooth and warm. "Hey, what d'you think I came back for?" Dimitri blinked owlishly at him, and he nodded, taking the smooth face in both hands and leaning forward.

Bodie was right. At close proximity, when his eyes could no longer hold focus, all he saw was creamy complexion and yellow hair, and all he felt was the warmth of skin, breath, and mouth. Dimitri's lips parted as he licked them and he felt hands on his chest; when he slid his tongue over the boy's teeth he heard a man, and a moment later he had Dimitri against him -- and Bodie was still right. It was just as nice holding him as holding a girl. Just a warm, alive body.

The kiss broke, and Doyle had to admit, it had been a very nice one. Dimitri was panting and sagged back against the pillows. Ray smiled at him, curiosity quickening his pulse. He took off his jacket and dropped it, then leaned over the boy, fingers delicately unbuttoning his shirt. His skin was creamy everywhere, and his little pink nipples were hard already. Ray rubbed them between thumb and forefinger, then bent to lick them. Dimitri gasped and, quite unexpectedly, Ray turned on.

It was powerfully arousing because he knew exactly what the kid was feeling, and the mirrored, phantom sensations threaded through his own body. he found Dimitri's lips again, much of his weight, pressing him down into the mattress. Then he sat up and as the boy's eyes fixed hotly on him, he took off his shirt. When he leaned toward Dimitri again, fingers combed through the hair on his chest, and Bodie was still right. A caress was a caress, and it was nice. He stroked across the boy's flat stomach tucked his fingers into his crotch, felt the erection that was imprisoned there. Dimitri's eyes were squeezed shut and his hips lifted, inviting the touch.

He wasn't a virgin, Ray thought. Inexperienced and very young, but not a virgin. He slipped the brown slacks off the narrow hips and dumped them on the floor. The long legs shifted reflexively and he began to stroke up and down the inside of his thighs while he dropped kisses on the quivering abdomen. The same techniques he would have used an a girl.

But there was the youngster's erection, thin, but hard and hot. The moans and gasps were exquisitely exciting to hear, he knew exactly what Dimitri was feeling, knew how to torture him, how to pleasure him until he was fighting for breath and his hips began to buck involuntarily. Doyle had not expected to turn on himself, but the warmth and softness and wanting beside him on the bed were in reality very little different to being with a woman. A warm body was a warm body, and caresses were caresses. When he knew that Dimitri was painfully close he stood up, quickly stripping, then lay down beside him, feeling skin on skin for the first time.

The heat welled up fast and a moment later he rolled his weight over onto the boy, moulded them together and began to rock against him. If he closed his eyes it was just heat and friction and an embrace and breath panting into his ear; it could have been a girl, but for the rigid cock that was rubbing against his and the harder muscles beneath the soft skin, and the musky, masculine scent. Put it all together and it became fascinating, even irresistible, and it was all he could do to keep his mind on Dimitri.

His wayward thoughts were on Bodie, and they remained so until he came with unexpected intensity. Beneath him, Dimitri was mewling, and he pressed a kiss to the boy's mouth before reaching for tissues to swab away the sticky product of the act. His muscles felt like elastic and he lay down again, smiling drowsily at the lad. Dimitri melted against him, head on his chest, and as he felt the tickle of tears he folded him into an embrace. "Hey, surely it was better than that."

"Beautiful," Dimitri murmured. "It was beautiful, and so are you, and I love you."

"Sleep now, pet," Ray murmured, stroking through the soft yellow hair, and slowly he felt his charge drift away.

Was that all there was to making him happy? It was ridiculously easy, and spreading his legs would be almost as simple. Dimitri was exhausted, but Ray did not sleep. He lay awake listening to his young lover's breathing, looking at the beautiful, flawless body, and cursing Bodie. Cursing him, because he knew he wanted to do it again, wanted to do it with Bodie, and because he felt the pangs of deep affection for Dimitri, who was doomed.

It was one o'clock in the morning, three days later, when the phone beside Bodie's bed rang, and he heard Ray's voice, husky and strained. He was calling from St. Andrew's hospital and had ridden there in the back of the ambulance. Bodie was awake in an instant. "What are they doing?"

"Nothing they can do," Doyle said bitterly. "He's unconscious. He's got a cerebral haemorrhage, he won't live long."

There was a long pause, then Bodie said, "I'll be with you in half an hour, mate."

"No need," Ray said, sounding bone weary.

"I said I'll be with you in half an hour. Get yourself a cup of tea and a couple of aspirins and sit down. You sound ready to keel over."

"I am," Doyle admitted. "thanks, Bodie. I'm in Casualty."

"I'll be there." Bodie hung up and got out of bed, padding into the bathroom to splash his face with cold water.

For three days he had seen little of Doyle, and almost every time he had seen him Dimitri had been there like his shadow. Once, he had seen them holding hands, and he had caught a brief glimpse of them kissing at the top of the stairs. Ray had relaxed in the role; if it was merely an act, he played the part bloody well, and Bodie had become accustomed to the sharp stabs of envy. Seeing Ray with Dimitri, knowing that they had slept in the same bed since Tuesday, haunted him to a much greater degree than he had expected. He swallowed the feelings; if Ray was just role-playing it all ended with the kid's death. But his mind went back again and again to that day in the car, when Doyle had rushed out the speculation that betrayed his wayward feelings. And wouldn't I love to teach you a thing or two about yourself, sunshine? Bodie thought as he left the flat.

Casualty was almost deserted. Ray sat slumped on one end of the couch, head in his hands, and Bodie's throat constricted. He looked so alone there, so tired and hurt. The green eyes were misted as he looked up at his friend's approach, and Bodie thought they were a little pink. He'd been crying, though the tears were over now. He sat down on the couch and slipped an arm about Ray's shoulders. "When did it happen?"

"Midnight - We watched a film on telly, had a cup of tea, went -- went to bed, " he said, as if it was difficult to say it. "Then he got up to use the loo and I heard the crash in the passage. It was quick, he went out like a light. "

"And happy, " Bodie said softly. "He looked like something out of the Romance of The Month Club yesterday. Bursting at the seams with it. All because of you. " He glanced at Ray's right profile and saw the trickle on his cheek. "You did bloody well. I m proud of you."

Doyle nodded, heaving in a breath. "It wasn't... wasn't a punishment, Bodie. I never knew I was a faggot. It ought to be hilarious to you."

"You're not a faggot, " Bodie said dismissively.

"I enjoyed it. I didn't have to pretend. I gave him what he wanted but I turned on myself and I liked it. Christ, you want a fright, Bodie? I've been fancying you for days!"

He did not see the small, wry smile that played about Bodie's lips. "Doesn't frighten me. Why should it? I'd go out and risk my life for you -- I frequently do. Why should going to bed with you scare me?"

"You mean --" Ray choked off a groan. "You would? You will?"

"Course. Why wouldn't I?" Bodie murmured, and a moment later he felt Ray sag against him in relief and in search of comfort Bodie felt happy to be able to give at last.

Young Dimitri Rostropovitch died peacefully at 3:08 and Doyle walked blindly in Bodie's wake, out to the car. The darkness covered his grief until he had it under control, but his battle with the turbulent emotions was so consuming that Bodie was half way home before Doyle realised that they were headed for Bodie's flat, not his own. He was just as glad; he had no wish to be alone. The front door locked up behind them, and Bodie poured a double scotch, watched Ray swallow it, and poured a second for him. "Down the hatch. Then get into bed. I'll call Central, tell them what's happened and that we won't be showing up at work till at least two o'clock. They can like or lump it. I don't think Cowley'll quibble, not this time."

Weary and hurting, Doyle swallowed the alcohol and headed for the bedroom. He undressed methodically and slipped into bed. Into Bodie's bed. He did not bother to put an the light; he heard Bodie R/T the message, then watched his friend's shadowy outline as he too undressed and slid in between the cool sheets.

For a while they lay apart, both wide awake; then Bodie heard the telltale catch of Ray's breath, grief that was almost silent and concealed by the darkness. He said nothing, but shuffled across the vital foot and a half and drew Doyle into their first embrace, cuddling him while at last Ray let go. The sobs did not last long but they racked him, and Bodie found himself pressing a kiss to his temple, breathing in the wonderful scent of him, fingers discovering velvety skin aid body heat.

He wanted to kiss him, wanted to possess him, but not now, not like this. Sometime when Ray was himself and smiling and clear headed. For now it was enough to lie in a close embrace and drift into sleep. Doyle buried his face in Bodie's warm chest, held on tightly and felt his heart melt a degree at a time until he recognised the feeling that flooded through him. It should have been terrifying, but it wasn't, and suddenly Bodie was everything.

He slept late, waking with a start as crockery clattered in the kitchen, and sitting up too fast. Orientation flooded back, and Ray scrubbed at eyes that felt like sandpaper. Bodie's bedroom was nice, tastefully decorated. He peered at the clock on the bedside table. It was almost eleven, and he slid out of bed, reaching for his underwear and jeans but not bothering to dress further.

He looked terrible, red eyed and whiskery. How the hell could Bodie fancy anyone who looked so bad? He thought as he closed the bathroom floor and turned on the shower. A pack of Bic disposables was on top of the cabinet and he drew a new one over his face as he stood under the hot water, gradually coming back to life. He looked and felt much better when he had towelled dry; the man in the mirror was still puffy about the eyelids, but tie passed muster, and Ray felt ready to face the world again.

Bacon was frying when he padded, barefoot, into the kitchen. Bodie had his teeth in a sandwich and shoved one at him, along with tea and toast and jam. Doyle realised only as he was handed the food that he was famished, and accepted the breakfast gratefully, drawing a chair up to the table. Bodie stood at the cooker, watching over the second helping, but his attention was on his partner. Pink and damp and heavy eyed, Doyle looked like something out of an artist's fantasy, vulnerable and absolute oblivious to the charms he was displaying. The denim clad legs and softly furry chest were pleasantly familiar to Bodie, but he was seeing them as if for the first time now, because never before had they been available in a sensual context.

He turned off the gas and sat down. "How are you, mate?"

"Okay." Ray smiled faintly. "Sorry about last night."

Bodie frowned. "What for?"

"For bawling my eyes out that way."

"Christ, you're a numbskull," Bodie said eloquently. "You didn't 'bawl your eyes out,' you wept-- like a man, silently, with your bloody dignity wrapped round you like a suit of armour."

"Till you held me," Ray murmured. "No one's held me like that since I was a kid."

"Maybe you needed it."

"Maybe I did. You don't mind, then?" he frowned up at Bodie, who was looking a little fuzzy around the edges. His eyesight was none too reliable this morning.

"Course I didn't mind," Bodie said dismissively. "Holding you was wonderful. I'd have kissed you too, but it wasn't the right time, was it? Time for that later."

"Yeah." Doyle nodded and smiled. "Sounds funny to hear-- you say that -- about kissing me. I've been thinking about that quite a lot lately, since I, well, found out what it's like to lie down with a bloke. Not any broke, but one you really feel for."

'You're growing up at last, Raymond," Bodie said wisely. "It's not the sex, is it? It's the love. Dimitri was loved, wasn't he?"

And Ray nodded. "In a way. But not--the way I love --" He bit it off and gulped at his tea as he coloured up . "Finish it, Ray," Bodie whispered. "Say it all, please."

"I was going to make a fool of myself '" Doyle said sadly.

"And I might be making a gamble I'll regret," Bodie said, "but I want to hear it from you. Please."

Ray looked up, the green eyes dark as the sea on an overcast day. "I was going to say, yes, I loved Dimitri in a way, but not the way I love you. I ought to duck now, because you'll belt me round the ear."

Bodie gaped at him. "What on earth would I want to hit you for? I'm not that much of an idiot! When somebody who's beautiful and dear to you and hurting says he loves you, you do a little dance of glee, you don't duff him up. Relax, sunshine, all I want to do is shoo you off to bed and smother you with love, but I can wait till you feel better about life."

A smile warmed Ray's features. "I'm aching, Bodie. Not physically, but in here." He tapped his bare chest. "There's no cure for it, but you can 'alleviate the symptoms.' I know I look like hell this morning, though -- and we've got to go to work soon."

"No, we haven't." Bodie smiled gently at him. "I called you in sick and told the Cow I'd been at the hospital with you till all hours, then brought you back here. He signed me off duty too. They don't want us at all today. And incidentally, you look lovely, damp like that, and heavy eyed, Boudoir eyes, you know." He paused, aware that he was growing hard with hopeful anticipation. "Got just the thing for that ache of yours."

"I'll bet you have." Doyle stood up, Bodie followed him to his feet, and they stepped together without another word, wondering how and why this had never happened before. It was not even strange -- it felt so comfortable and familiar it might have happened a hundred times already. A moment later Ray couldn't have spoken if held wanted to. Their first kiss was hot and deep and he was crushed against his partner's broad, muscular body, both arms looped about his neck, grinding his hips into Bodie's with a power he had never displayed either with his women, who might have objected, or with Dimitri, who night have taken fright. But Bodie returned it instinctively, and as hard. They moulded together with astonishing ease, shifting and clinging tightly; it would have been easy to go an until they came that way, but Bodie broke the kiss and held Ray against him so as to stop him moving, and slowly the fever drained from his eyes and he was aware again.

Undressing him was simple, since he wore so little to begin with, and Bodie's hands were like electric butterflies on him, arousing him to heights he had not known in years. Ray was conscious of the impulse to be absolutely passive. Vaguely, it occurred to him that if this ran its full course Bodie would take him as he had twice taken Dimitri, spread his legs and -- Dimitri had not worked up the courage to do that to him, and Ray caught his breath, very nearly coming as the scalding kisses that consumed his hardness and the thought of it conspired to bring him right to the edge.

As he gasped, fists clenching on Bodie's shoulders, Bodie looked up, guessing, and got to his feet, gently tumbling Doyle onto the bed beside which they stood. Ray went down in a breathless sprawl and Bodie turned him over, feathering kisses all over his back and legs. He pressed him down into the quilt with both hands an his buttocks, watching Ray's back flex as he thrust himself deep into the softness, coming close again. Bodie's breath caught in his throat as his own need ignited powerfully. He slid both hands about Ray's hips and lifted him, bringing him up to his knees and parting his buttocks to look at him. Ray dropped his head low, breathing hard, waiting for it, letting Bodie do anything, everything, and Bodie stooped to kiss the softy hot skin under his kneading fingers, making him moan, push back in search of completion.

But more than anything then, Bodie wanted to see his face, and instead of taking him on his knees in an attitude of submission, he turned him over onto his back. Ray was beside himself, the torture had gone an almost to the point of cruelty, and Bodie felt a twinge of guilt as he watched his best friend threshing in agony. If he took him now, he would come almost at once, and he desperately wanted Ray to know how it could be. So he took his hands off him and kissed his face and throat until he calmed again.

How Doyle found his voice he would never know, and he sounded strangled. "For God's sake, Bodie, what are you doing?"

"Hush, hush," Bodie crooned, only then slipping his knees in between Ray's; when the long, slender legs wrapped about him he knew the man beneath him was ready for it. Slick with his premature release, he found it so gloriously simple to make love to Ray that even he was astonished. Doyle cried out incoherently -- Bodie knew what he was feeling and held back with an effort to make it last as long as it would, until they were both beyond thinking, both hunting for completion with equal abandon. Then Ray fought him for every second; his lover's strength was amazing, and Bodie knotted his fingers into the soft curls to hold him down. Doyle was a mass of contradictions, at once so soft and so strong that it was bewildering.

They clung together as the shudders swept through them, and it was a long time before they were in any fit condition to speak or hear or see.

Ray's eyes were dark with exhausted fulfilment, and Bodie saw the love in them, "That's what you gave Dimitri," he said gently. "Knowing you, you did it right. You're careful. That's what he felt, why he was like your shadow for days."

Tears prickled beneath Ray's lowered lids. "I want to let you feel it too," he murmured. "I do love you, you know. I only realised that the other day, idiot that I am. You take friendship and you add lust, and get love, don't you?"

"Yes," Bodie said seriously, "you do. Which makes you my one true love, Raymond-- Get used to hearing that, because I'm not letting go of you. Not for all the tea in China. Have your girlfriends, if you want them, but then come back to me. Just so long as you come to me. All right?"

In answer, Ray kissed him, because he was too choked up to say a word.

A barge honked its horn an the river, half a mile away, and Bodie was sneezing. He always sneezed in this place; it was the dust. Ray waved a handkerchief at him and he blew his nose. The sound echoed in the big, empty old warehouse. Cowley gave them a curious look, seeing how subdued they both were, guessing how fond they had both become of the Russian boy. A plain casket stood on the concrete before them, and the Scot sighed as he heard the approach of heavy feet. They had cons to take the 'defecting spy' away, to an unmarked grave in a Moscow cemetery.

The Russians were new agents -- KGB, Doyle guessed. They had the 'hard boy' look about them, heavy jowled, dour and disapproving. He gave them back scowl for scowl as they came up the steps and across the concrete. It was doubtful if they spoke English. Normally, Bodie would have had some witticism for them -- 'up the Dynamps, keep taking the pills,' or whatever. But this time neither he nor Ray could find enough good nature for that.

The two groups stood glaring at each other for half a minute, then the casket was lifted and carried away. Doyle watched it out of sight and turned toward the glassless windows, looking blindly out at the river. Behind him, Cowley checked the time and got moving. "I've an appointment in Whitehall in half an hour. I'll see you gentlemen in the morning."

It was late afternoon -- or early evening, a moot point. London lay in a pool of shadow, grey, chaotic, bustling, but Doyle felt no affection for it just then. Had it not been for Bodie's presence he would have felt achingly alone, but Bodie slipped an arm about his waist aid kissed the back of his neck as Cowley left and Ray felt the warmth, the affection that dispelled the mortal loneliness all humans fear and most have to learn to live with.

He turned into Bodie's embrace. It was odd; it did not, feel like a sacrifice of his independence or a bruise on his male ego. He knew that Bodie trusted him as his partner, considered him his equal as a man, found him attractive, loved to touch him and needed Ray as much as Ray needed him. Far from being a bruising sacrifice, it felt very good. They were closer now than they had ever been; it was almost as if they had become Siamese twins, and it was a closeness neither of than had ever felt with a woman. Making love was rapturous and easy, which made them desire each other often, and in the week since Dimitri had died they had been out on the town with girlfriends only once. They had gone their separate ways, enjoyed their evenings but missed each other, and much as both of them liked women they could see what was coming.

One day they would prefer each other all the time, and find the bother of chasing girls too time consuming and expensive. Ray just smiled at the notion. Bodie had a beautiful body, he made love like the expert he was, and he offered the kind of loving only another man could give, something Doyle had learned not just to like, but to crave. Women were just as beautiful and desirable, but Bodie was Bodie, and he knew that he would keep going back like an addict to the drug.

He sighed and Bodie, hearing it, lifted his chin to look at him. "What is it?"

"Nothing." Ray forced a smile.

"Sigh of content, was it?"

"Yeah, something like that. I just like holding you this way. It's nice. Can't imagine why we never did this before."

"Because you weren't ready for it, love," Bodie said, and tousled the red- brown curls tenderly.

"But you'd have done it," Ray said wryly.

Bodie shrugged. "I like to make love with someone I treasure. My idea of fun. I studiously ignored your fanny from Day One, but -- let me put it like this. If you'd swatted my backside or squeezed my knee or batted your eyelashes at me, I'd have swept you right off your feet, any time. Anyway, better late than never. Let's go home."

"Your place or mine?" Ray asked as they turned to leave.

"Yours, if you like. It's closer."

"And you like my bed," Doyle chuckled. "Posturepedic interior springing, good for your back."

"Kind to one's knees," Bodie said primly.

"Whatever," Ray shrugged. "I've got a new record at her I'd like to play."

"Oh? What is it?"

"Itzhak Perlman and the London Philharmonic. He's playing the Dvorak violin concerto."

"The one Dimitri played part of for you?"

Ray nodded. "Yeah.. It's got to be the most beautiful of all the concertos."

"And. it makes you think of Dimitri, " Bodie warned. "Don't depress yourself."

"Makes me think of being loved, " Doyle corrected. "By him, by you. It's. .. a feeling I've learned to like. A lot." He smiled at Bodie's serious expression. "Come on, love, let's go home. "

-- THE END --

March 1986

Circuit Archive Logo Archive Home